Coronavirus has changed our daily habits and our lives, but Britain’s plan to rebuild is starting now. While the furlough scheme has been extended to October by the Chancellor to support those companies that are not immediately able to reopen, other sectors have managed to get back to work safely. The construction and manufacturing sector, which are backbones of our local area, have been allowed to start building, respecting safety measures and social distancing. Schools are gradually reopening, giving the chance to more children to get back to learning face to face with their teachers. While it’s fundamental that we guarantee the safety of children, teachers and staff, I am assured that the gradual reopening will take into account the risks posed by the virus in a school setting. I believe it’s important that we start getting children back to school as soon as it is possible to do so. In this way, no children, particularly those from a most vulnerable background, is left behind.
It is also possible now to meet outdoors with a member of another household, respecting social distancing. One of the effects of this pandemic on many people has been social isolation and loneliness. Last week was dedicated to mental health awareness and it allowed many to learn more and find resources when feeling under the water. Now we are finally able to see friends and family out of our households in a responsible way. Staying alert is fundamental to avoid a second wave of infection, but the commitment to safety demonstrated by the majority of the residents in the Wakefield area and the whole of Britain is paying off.
These are still difficult times for many people uncertain about their future and their jobs. The Chancellor has launched unprecedented measures to support the economy and employment and many have received the support they need to save their businesses. I raised with the Treasury the issue of some in need for more help, particularly Limited Companies and sole traders, some of whom are currently unable to reopen safely.
Last week, in the virtual Chamber, I also asked the Minister of State for Transport about tickets refunds for commuters of Morley and Outwood which are told to work from home. I was pleased to hear that the Government has worked with rail companies to make refunds available so that no ticket holder is left out of pocket.
I am particularly proud of how our communities have embarked on this national effort. My personal call for volunteers found more than 50 people willing to help in our area, and more than a million signed up nationally to support our NHS. The Government has delivered over 1.5 million food parcels to the clinically extremely vulnerable. Neighbours have helped the most vulnerable on their road and key workers got support by several businesses. It was a pleasure to see a national hero like Captain Tom Moore being awarded a Knighthood after raising almost £33 million for our NHS. His heroism is something special, but many up and down the country have been inspired and have done their bit to help our communities in this difficult time. It is not over yet, but if we stay alert, safe, and help each other out as we have done so far, we’ll be able to save lives and defeat this virus.